Public bodies and DPOs are encouraged to become familiar with the requirements of the Act; with the requirements of the Code of Conduct for persons carrying on lobbying activities; and with these guidelines. This will enable public bodies and DPOs to direct persons engaged in lobbying where to find out further information on the Act, if requested.
Public servants should be proactive in advising possible lobbyists when attending a meeting, participating in a conference call, etc., of their status as a DPO. This may be particularly useful in meetings where there are large numbers of officials present and the identity and grade of each official may not be known to those outside of the public service.
Other means of being proactive for a DPO would be to include a line in his or her business card or email signature stating:
“Designated Public Official under Regulation of Lobbying Act, 2015. See www.lobbying.ie.”
Information contained in a return of lobbying activities is effectively a summary of relevant communications which have taken place between a person carrying on lobbying activities and a DPO/Public Body. The information contained in a return may prompt further enquiries or Freedom of Information requests regarding the communications. Public bodies and DPOs should, therefore, ensure that a proper record is maintained of all correspondence with a lobbyist on a particular matter. This might also include a record or account of casual or social encounters where the DPO considers a lobbying activity to have occurred.
It is recommended that DPOs check the lobbying register on a periodic basis to ensure that their name is associated with the correct lobbying activities and the information is factually correct. Persons have a right to seek correction from the Commission where information published on the Register relating to the person is inaccurate, out of date or misleading.
It is important to note that the fact that a DPO’s name appears on a lobbying return does not mean that they agree with the position of the person lobbying them. A person who undertakes lobbying activities may do so in various ways: through emails, phone calls, written submissions, meetings, etc.. Some of these activities may be in the form of mass communications (for example, an email sent to all members of the Oireachtas). Others may be more targeted (for example, a meeting with a particular DPO).
It is the responsibility of public officials to seek out and hear from a range of views on issues of public policy, and meeting with organisations or persons who may seek to lobby them on a matter is part of that process. However, the presence of a DPO’s name on a lobbying return simply indicates that the DPO has been lobbied on a matter. It does not imply agreement on the part of the DPO with the position of the person lobbying, and should not be interpreted as such.